Our Penn: Let the Conversations Begin

Meet Our Penn Students

Hope MerensAaron GuoSelamawit BekeleSophie BerenJason Choi
Javier Garcia-TafoyaOlivia HornMichael ZhouIngrid PrinceAlexis Block
Natalie MeloElliot OblanderCamara BrownSona DadhaniaOlivia Brisbane
Riva CadwalladerJenna HerbertKaleb GerminaroMatthew CaulfieldSanjit Chakravarty
Debi OgunrindeHannah BucklinEric HelfgottSandra UrusaroMiranda Wang
Garrett CaytonWilliam DuckworthLiz NunezVaishak KumarKayvon Asemani

Our Penn featured three students on stage with President Gutmann in 10 cities, including: Atlanta, London, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Hong Kong.  


Hope Merens, C’18

Hope is a student in Penn’s highly selective Vagelos Scholars Program in the Molecular Life Sciences. An aspiring academic researcher from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she is double majoring in neurobiology and biochemistry, minoring in English, and pursuing a master’s in chemistry. With a love for both science and service, Hope mentors freshman in the Vagelos program, leads workshops for students in Organic Chemistry, and is deeply engaged in Penn for Youth Debate as a volunteer and board member. She also spent a summer in Hong Kong as part of Penn Global’s internship program, teaching science to young children.

Hope participated in Our Penn Hong Kong on March 7, 2017. 

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Aaron Guo, ENG’17, W’17

Aaron, from Gainesville, Virginia, a student in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, believes environmental education is the key to a sustainable future. He has promoted awareness in the university community as a College House Eco-Rep, served on the executive board of the Penn International Impact Consulting Group at Wharton, and founded the Environ Group, a student-run environmental consultant group to help businesses become more sustainable members of their communities and save money by doing so. Aaron also volunteers at local high schools as a Weiss Tech House Science and Technology mentor and works as a staff photographer for campus food magazine Penn Appetit. He was a 2014 Social Impact House Fellow.

Aaron participated in Our Penn Boston on April 26, 2016. 

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Selamawit Bekele, C’17

A winner of the 2017 President’s Engagement Prize, Selamawit is committed to tackling healthcare disparities like those she saw growing up in her native Ethiopia. A Health & Societies major and QuestBridge Scholar, she pursues her interest in biomedical research by working in a Penn Medicine genetics lab. In her volunteer work at the Refugee Clinic at the Penn Center for Primary Care, she explores her passion for service at the intersection of physical health and social wellbeing. Selamawit was awarded a Kathryn W. Davis Projects for Peace grant to help improve the health conditions of marginalized communities in Senegal the summer after her junior year. She is a Civic Scholar and a member of Onyx Senior Honor Society. 

Selamawit participated in Our Penn Boston on April 26, 2016. 

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Sophie Beren, C’17, SPP’18

Sophie believes in the power of conversation to bring about social change. A communications major from Wichita, Kansas, with a minor in Music, she is the founder and president of TableTalk Penn, an initiative that brings together students from across campus to foster meaningful dialogue and connection. Sophie is a performer and marketing manager for the Shabbatones and an active member of Penn Hillel and Sigma Delta Tau. She is also president of Osiris Senior Honor Society and a member of Friars Senior Society. Sophie has submatriculated into the Master’s of Nonprofit Leadership Program in the School of Social Policy & Practice.

Sophie participated in Our Penn Los Angeles on November 1, 2016. 

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Jason Choi, W’17

Jason came to Penn from Hong Kong as an English major and changed direction when he discovered Penn’s thriving entrepreneurial community. As a freshman, he founded PennOrb, an eco-friendly start-up project designed to encourage energy conversation on campus and, soon after, started Breaking Hoops, a blog to highlight purpose-driven innovators. A passionate storyteller, Jason brings together innovation and inspiration as a regular contributor to Huffington Post and is a partner to student venture capital fund Contrary Capital. He was a member of Osiris Senior Honor Society and president of PennYo, Penn’s Chinese A Cappella group. In his senior year, Jason joined the Penn Boxing Club.

Jason participated in Our Penn Hong Kong on March 7, 2017. 

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Javier Garcia-Tafoya, C’16

Born in Mexico, Javier was 11 when his family immigrated to California where he learned English and excelled academically. A Health & Societies major interested in bringing together the business and biology of healthcare, Javier was a Benjamin Franklin Scholar and a member of Sphinx Senior Honor Society. A first-generation college student, Javier was active in Penn First, a student group that provides support for first-generation students, and he served as a student ambassador for the Named Scholarship Program.

Javier participated in Our Penn London on March 7, 2016.

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Olivia Horn, C’17

From Cincinnati, Ohio, Olivia was a member of the Keynotes A Cappella group and the Penn Theatre Arts Council. She sees the power of visual and performance art as a didactic tool that can open up dialogue, increase cross-cultural understanding, and bring about social change, and she speaks passionately about the vibrancy of arts and culture at Penn and the supportive and collaborative community behind it. Olivia interned at the Slought Foundation the summer after her sophomore year and wrote about her experience for the Penn Art & Culture blog

Olivia participated in Our Penn Atlanta on March 2, 2016.

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Michael Zhou, C’18

Michael came to Penn from a western province in Canada, challenging the convention of his hometown by applying to the Ivy League. He expected to pursue a pre-med track and changed direction when he discovered the delight of exploring and integrating multiple disciplines. He is now a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics major, with a passion for business consulting. He is deeply engaged in the Wharton Undergraduate Consulting Club, Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity, and the International Affairs Association. He also performs with PennYo, Penn’s All-Asian A Cappella group. 

Michael participated in Our Penn San Francisco on November 3, 2016.

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Ingred Prince, NU’16, GNU’20

Born in Haiti, Ingred was 5 when her family immigrated to Florida. She attended a vocational high school, earned her LPN, and set out to become “the best nurse in the world.” A QuestBridge scholar, Ingred “pays it forward” by serving as a volunteer mentor for the SHIELD program, where she trains local students to become certified medical assistants. She is a member of the African American Arts Alliance (4A), Sphinx Senior Honor Society, Nightingales Nursing Senior Honor Society, Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Society, and Onyx Senior Honor Society. With a global health minor, Ingred plans to serve low-resource, low-income communities as a family nurse practitioner.

Ingred participated in Our Penn Washington DC on April 18, 2016.

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Alexis Block, ENG’16, GEN’17

Alexis is a Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics major, from Fox Point, Wisconsin, with minors in Engineering Entrepreneurship and Mathematics. Deeply committed to empowering her fellow female engineers, she serves on the advisory board for Advancing Women in Engineering. As a University Scholar, she has conducted research in the Haptics Group part of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, Perception (GRASP) Lab and is sub-matriculated into the Master of Science in Engineering (Robotics) Program. Alexis is also academic chair for Zeta Tau Alpha, social chair for the Orthodox Community at Penn, and treasurer and choreographer for the Quaker Girls Dance team. Alexis was recently accepted to the PhD program in Intelligent Systems (Robotics) with the Center for Learning Systems, a combined program between the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and ETH Zürich. 

Alexis participated in Our Penn London on March 7, 2016.

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Natalie Melo, ENG’17

Natalie is a QuestBridge Scholar and first generation college student from Malden, Massachusetts, majoring in Computer Information Science. With a pioneering spirit and a passion to serve, she spent two summers in China as part of Penn Engineering’s Global Biomedical Service program, making orthotics for children with developmental disabilities. On campus, Natalie is a facilitator for TableTalk, a student-run initiative that encourages conversation and connection between unlikely student groups. She is also a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and Theta Tau, a co-ed professional engineering fraternity.

Natalie participated in Our Penn San Francisco on November 3, 2016.

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Elliot Oblander, C’18, W’18

Elliot’s journey to Penn from Portland, Oregon, was just the start of an intellectual adventure reflected in his unique course of study – East Asian Languages and Civilizations combined with Mathematics, Statistics, and Actuarial Science. An aspiring academic, Elliot has been a researcher with the Wharton Summer Program for Undergraduate Research and a data scientist with the Wharton MBA Admissions Office. He is a TA for Applied Probability Models in Marketing, a class taught through Wharton’s MBA Program, and his deep legacy of engagement on campus includes PennCORP, Alternate Spring Break, and the service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega.

Elliot participated in Our Penn San Francisco on November 3, 2016.

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Camara Brown, C’17

Camara, an award-winning poet from Chicago, Illinois, was drawn to Penn for its rich diversity and the thriving community at Kelly Writers House, where she has been on staff since freshman year. She is deeply engaged with The Excelano Project, a spoken word poetry collective on campus and serves as president of Delta Phi, the oldest fraternity at Penn. Camara was a 2015 Fox Fellow and is an Urban Studies major who has studied systemic poverty in Brazil, South Africa, and India. She is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow with an aspiration to teach in higher education.

Camara participated in Our Penn Chicago on June 1, 2016.

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Sona Dadhania, ENG’19

Sona is a Materials Science and Engineering major who is a passionate about teaching as she is about discover. As a freshman, she brought nanotechnology to life in an animated video that won her the 2016 Science Ambassador Scholarship, sponsored by Cards Against Humanity. A Moelis Access Science Fellow, Sona has taught physics to students at Sayre High School and, this year, is focused on curriculum development and planning. She is a Deputy Crisis Director for the Ivy League Model United Nations Conference and Artistic Director for the Indian dance team, Penn Raas.

Sona participated in Our Penn Philadelphia on September 14, 2016.

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Olivia Brisbane, NU’17

Olivia is a QuestBridge Scholar, majoring in Nursing Science and minoring in Nutrition. A competitive athlete from Kansas City, Kansas, she is as passionate about self-empowerment as she is about health and wellness. She has been a volunteer and group leader with the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative, teaching cooking classes and promoting healthy lifestyles. She has also coached high school girls in lacrosse through the Young Quakers Program. Olivia is president of Penn Women’s Club Volleyball.

Olivia participated in Our Penn Los Angeles on November 1, 2016.

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Rive Cadwallader, C’18

Rive was raised in Germantown and feels deeply connected to the rich history of her neighborhood and the City of Philadelphia. A Mayor’s Scholar, she is majoring in Health and Societies and minoring in Classical Studies and English. Rive works at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, where she catalogs rare manuscripts and promotes the collections online. She serves as President of the Morris Arboretum Student Advisory Board and Secretary of the Mayor’s Scholars Board. This summer she interned with the nonprofit organization Historic Germantown.

Rive participated in Our Penn Philadelphia on September 14, 2016.

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Jenna Hebert, C’16

From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jenna is a scholar-athlete who spent four years studying neuroscience in the Biological Basis of Behavior (BBB) program and four years on the Penn Varsity Women’s Rowing team. She draws interesting comparisons between her laboratory work and the sport of rowing – each requires discipline and is simultaneously individual and collaborative. Jenna was named a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and has written about her experience on the CURF blog.

Jenna participated in Our Penn London on March 7, 2016.

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Kaleb Germinaro, C’17, GED’18

As a member of the Penn football squad from Chandler, Arizona, Kaleb’s time as a Quaker has provided some interesting turns, challenging him in ways he could have never foreseen. He is currently pursuing a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), and studying Human Development at Penn’s Graduate School of Education. Kaleb serves on the Sphinx Senior Society Executive Board, and has taught underserved elementary school students through the Netter Center. An Oh! Snap contributor, Kaleb combines his photographic skills and love of animals, photographing adoptable pets for local shelters.

Kaleb participated in Our Penn Philadelphia on September 14, 2016.

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Matthew Caulfield, W’16, GRW’21

A Wharton student from Ocean City, NJ, Matt chose Penn for its one university philosophy and its uniform strength across all schools. He is actively engaged across campus, serving as founding member and managing editor of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, co-chairman of the University Honor Council, treasurer of the Government and Politics Association, and performs opera with the Penn Singers. With concentrations in Management and Legal Studies & Business Ethics, Matt was an intern at Third Way, a DC-based think tank that serves as a resource for policymakers. He is currently a student in Wharton’s PhD program in Ethics and Legal Studies.

Matthew participated in Our Penn Washington DC on April 18, 2016.

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Sanjit Chakravarty, W’19

Sanjit, a self-professed “global citizen” was born in Indonesia to Indian parents and moved to Dubai when he was 10 years old. He was drawn to Penn for the world-class business school and the richly diverse student community. A natural leader, Sanjit joined Wharton Council, where he helps to launch new student clubs and is dedicated to expanding and deepening the vibrant Wharton community. He engages with his peers as a loan analyst for the Student Federal Credit Union and entertains audiences as a member of Penn Masala, Penn’s South Asian A Cappella group. Last summer, he travelled with the group to Dubai and India on a multi-city tour.

Sanjit participated in Our Penn Hong Kong on March 7, 2017.

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Debi Ogunrinde, C’16, W’16

Debi, from Westphal, Nova Scotia, was a student in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, and deeply involved in international development and social entrepreneurship. She has conducted research in the UK, South Africa, and Nigeria, and mentored students in West Philadelphia on financial literacy and college application skills. Debi is president of the Onyx Senior Honor Society and has set multiple records for Penn’s Parliamentary Debate Team. She was named a 2016 Rhodes Scholar and is at studying social anthropology and public policy.

Debi participated in Our Penn London on March 7, 2016.

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Hannah Bucklin, C’16

A member of the Vagelos Scholars Program in the Molecular Life Sciences, Hannah majored in biochemistry and biophysics, and submatriculated into a Master’s degree in chemistry. She worked at the Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the Perelman School of Medicine for three years, which fueled her ambition to improve the lives of patients with chronic diseases stems from her own experience living with Type I diabetes. Hannah served as a leader of the Wharton Undergraduate Health Care Club and founded the Penn chapter of the College Diabetes Network. She is currently working on her MD/PhD at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Hannah participated in Our Penn Boston on April 26, 2016.

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Eric Helfgott, ENG’18, W’18

Eric came to Penn from the Upper East Side for the innovative dual-degree program affectionately known as “M&T” (Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology). He is a bioengineering major, with a concentration in Finance, Environmental Management and Policy, and a natural leader in the interdisciplinary world of business. He has served on the M&T Student Board since his freshman year and is currently the Board’s Vice President. He was also Chief of Staff for the Ivy League Model United Nations Conference which was held in Philadelphia in January 2017. He is active in Penn International Affairs Association and a member of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.

Eric participated in Our Penn New York on October 6, 2016.

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Sandra Urusaro, NU’19

Sandra is a Penn World Scholar and a passionate advocate for Rwanda, her home country. A nursing student with a minor in Global Health, she witnessed early in life the unique health care challenges faced by those living in rural Rwanda. Compelled to make a difference, she excelled academically and made her way to Penn through a unique college-preparation program called Bridge2Rwanda. Sandra is a HUP volunteer, and, this past summer, interned at the Butaro Cancer Center in northern Rwanda. On campus, she is part of SNAP (Student Nurses at Penn), Penn African Student Associate, and Penn Faith and Action.

Sandra participated in Our Penn New York on October 6, 2016.

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Miranda Wang, C’16

An aspiring scientist from Vancouver, Canada, Miranda is committed to solving big problems. Through her unique course of study – cell and molecular biology combined with engineering entrepreneurship and philosophy – she discovered Penn’s entrepreneurial community and has shaped a future defined by innovation and impact. Supported by multiple Penn awards, including the 2016 Wharton Business Plan Competition’s Social Impact Award, Miranda founded BioCellection, a biotech start-up that aims to reduce plastic pollution. A former TED speaker, Miranda founded TEDxPenn, which “empowers through ideas” and unites student entrepreneurs across campus.

Miranda participated in Our Penn Washington DC on April 18, 2016.

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Garrett Cayton, W’18

A Los Angeles native, Garrett came to Penn to study business and has since found that his real passion lies at the intersection of business and the arts. He is now a Finance major, with a minor in Cinema Studies – an interest ignited at Penn and deepened this past summer through his Penn-in-Cannes summer abroad experience. This LA native has also grown to love the city of Philadelphia, its restaurants and its art galleries, including the Institute of Contemporary Art. He is a member of the Real Estate Club, Finance Club, and Undergraduate Media and Entertainment Club.

Garrett participated in Our Penn Los Angeles on November 1, 2016.

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William Duckworth, ENG’16

A mechanical engineer from Lake Forest, Illinois, William won the inaugural President’s Innovation Prize for Fever Smart, a company he founded with two other Penn students during his freshman year. The team developed a medical device that can monitor a patient’s temperature from anywhere in the world using a smartphone. For William, running a business and attending Penn have gone hand-in-hand. He spent each academic break traveling to support Fever Smart’s international manufacturing and software development operations. Fever Smart received its first seed funding from the Weiss Tech House Innovation Fund.

William participated in Our Penn Chicago on June 1, 2016.

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Liz Nunez, C’17, W’17

Born in the Dominican Republic, Liz was 9 when her family immigrated to New York, where she discovered she had a capacity for language and an operatic voice. She became fluent in English and Italian, excelling academically and earning admission to LaGuardia High School of Music and Arts and Performing Arts, followed by the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business. With a concentration in Finance and a minor in Italian, Liz has been exploring the intersection of business, international relations, and cultures around the world. She is a founding member and president of the Wharton Hospitality and Travel Club and a member of Chi Omega Fraternity.  

Liz participated in Our Penn New York on October 6, 2016.

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Vaishak Kumar, C’16

Vaishak is a political science and economics major who hails from a farming community in India. He won a 2016 President’s Engagement Prize for his project entitled “NESARA Agricultural Extension.” The initiative will use a mobile lab, smart phone technology, and personalized information to help Indian farmers boost their productivity. Vaishak also pursued his passion for film at Penn, participating in Gregory College House’s Film Culture Program, producing short films, and taking screenwriting and video courses.

Vaishak participated in Our Penn Chicago on June 1, 2016.

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Kayvon Asemani, W’18

Kayvon is a hip-hop artist and business entrepreneur from Baltimore, Maryland, who wants to make a difference by empowering young people to take charge of their lives. As a Civic Scholar, Kayvon cares deeply about issues of poverty and education and has mentored students through the West Philadelphia College Access Program. He is currently engaged with the Financial Literacy Community Project and is a student ambassador for the Named Scholarship Program.

Kayvon participated in Our Penn Atlanta on March 2, 2016. 

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